MADISON — There was one way for the Marshfield Columbus Catholic boys basketball team to attack, and even that was risky.

Bangor wasn’t going to give Jarred Mandel the chance to break a tie as the final seconds ticked off the clock during a WIAA Division 5 semifinal at the Kohl Center on Friday afternoon.

So when the second pass after an inbounds with 5.8 seconds on the clock went to Mandel, two defenders met him at midcourt and forced him to jump and look for an open person down the floor.

Tom Nystrom, who hadn’t made a shot all day, was waiting for the pass and chance to spoil the Cardinals’ day. The buzzer went off after Nystrom released his shot and finished as the ball swished through the hoop.

Nystrom was mobbed by his teammates, and Bangor players walked away in disbelief as the scoreboard reflected the Dons’ 69-66 victory.

“We had everything going our way,” Bangor senior Trevor Jones said. “We had the crowd and we had just tied the game. It was just (5.8) seconds, but (Nystrom) got open and hit a miraculous shot.”

Nystrom had missed the only two shots he attempted before the final possession. Mandel scored 22 points, and figuring out which player Bangor was going to try to make beat it was an easy decision.

Mandel’s pass was perfect and allowed Nystrom to catch and shoot naturally. Anything off the mark would have taken the opportunity away and sent a game the Dons (26-2) had in control just minutes before to overtime.

“We pressured the way we wanted to in the backcourt, but (Mandel) made a good pass,” Bangor junior Grant Manke said. “(Nystrom) got a really good look at it.”

Lost in the final score will be the comeback Bangor (25-2) unleashed after finding itself trailing by as many as 13 points in the second half. The Cardinals trailed 62-51 with 6:21 left before scoring 15 of the next 19 points and tying the score at 66 when Jones put back his own missed shot with 5.8 seconds left.

The Cardinals, who won last year’s Division 5 championship, forced turnovers and made shots down the stretch after failing on some good opportunities earlier in the second half.

A Jones 3-pointer off a pass from Hank Reader cut the deficit to eight, and it remained less than 10 the rest of the game. When Manke, who had 20 points and 13 rebounds, scored in the paint off another Reader pass, the Cardinals were within 64-61 with 1:33 left.

That set up huge shots by Jaymeson Freit (12 points) and Jones (19 points) that forced the Dons into the final play.

Freit’s 3-pointer — off an assist from Reader — tied the game at 64 with 48 seconds left. Jones then answered a Mandel basket after getting two offensive rebounds on his team’s final possession to tie it at 66.

With Mandel scoring from everywhere — and playing the last 4:54 with four fouls — and the consistent presence in the paint from Bryce Fuerlinger (15 points and 25, yes, 25 rebounds), it wasn’t a situation many at the Kohl Center expected to see.

Nystrom, who made 31 3-pointers before Friday, then shifted the noise from one end of the building to the other with his only basket.

“I was supposed to get down the court and find an opening, and if Jarred could make the pass, he would,” Nystrom said, “It just happened to play out that way and I found an opening.”

It gave Marshfield Columbus a chance to win its first state championship on Saturday on the heels of Bangor winning its a year ago. The Dons play Sheboygan Lutheran at 11:05 a.m. in the title game.

“We were trying to make them eat up some time in the backcourt, which they did,” Bangor coach Jacob Pedersen said of the final possession. “I guess if we were going to let someone shoot the ball, (Nystrom) was probably one of two options to let shoot it.

“The kid hit a heck of a shot (and it’s) a good memory for him.”

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Todd Sommerfeldt can be reached at todd.sommerfeldt@lee.net and on Twitter @SommerfeldtLAX.


Assistant Sports Editor

Todd Sommerfeldt has covered sports for the La Crosse Tribune since 2003 after doing the same previously in the Fox Cities and Rock County.